Is the Hunger Games And Other Young Adult Fiction Too Dark?
I haven't read the Hunger Games or Twilight and, I may as well be honest, not very much of Harry Potter either. I'm a huge reader and a bit of a book snob; there is so much great literary fiction going on, why would I read books meant for teens?
Especially since I can see the movies. (Though, I haven't seen any of the Twilight films.)
My son is an avid YA [young adult] reader and has read all of the above (again, except for Twilight). He has also read and enjoyed anything by Rick Riordon, the new "it" book Divergent, and hundreds of other usually dystopic, sometimes depressing, but usually gripping YA books.
He often gives me a synopsis of a book and I try and dig deeper to find some of the themes so we can have some special mother-son chats. And when that fails, we discuss what makes a good book and I try to pull more than one-word answers out of him; hoping for a glimpse into the tween mind.
And while I'm glad that he is enjoying his books and they do sound interesting, I don't really want to read them. I am obviously alone in that because everywhere I turn there are adults reading books meant for teens. Why?
I asked Lynne Missen, the Publishing Director for Children and Teen books at Penguin Canada, the same question when I talked to her about the launch of the Young Adult Fiction website and imprint, Razorbill. Missen has been in kids' publishing for 20 years and has read thousands of YA novels. And I don't think she is over-exaggerating when she says that YA novels are exploding and she loves them.
She says that the draw of YA fiction to teens and grownups alike is that in YA, the story is everything. Teens don't have the patience for long drawn-out narratives. They demand authenticity and they want action and strong characters - which just so happens is what adults want as well.
I had to ask why the books my son reads are so dark - the kids are alone, the world has ended, evil is winning. Why is so much of the fiction dystopic? (Hunger Games anyone?) Sometimes I worry that the trend is too dark, but then I remember I read the entire Flowers In The Attic series and I turned out (relatively) normal. If you worry, Salon has a great defense of the grimness of Young Adult books.
Missen said that the teen years are years of struggle and searching and the books are representing that on a larger scale. If parents are worried about the message that these books are sending to their kids, then they should read along with them and ask them what appeals to them about those messages.
She said that reading alongside your child may teach you something about their hopes and beliefs. I agree that talking about books can be an easier conversation to have than talking about the real life characters at school. So I guess I am telling you that you should be reading teen fiction with your kid. Which is kind of awkward for me since I started this post saying that I don't read teen fiction.
Except now, I guess I will. Except that vampire stuff, I have to save face on that one.
Seen the Hunger Games trailer? It does look good.
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about the perils of raising a praise junkie. Good for you for reading!